2002 / april / 13

really upset

I am highly emotional right now, disturbed. Just came back home, having roamed through town for a couple of hours.

A number of organisations had organised a demo against Isreal's treatment of the Palestinians in the occupied territories. I know some of the people organising it; I know that they have their heart in the right place. There were a number of jewish organisations involved, too. Still, I had had a bad feeling about it ever since I heard it, fearing that extremists would come out and dominate the demo.

I had my photo course in the morning. When class ended, though the demo was held at Dam square, quite far away from there, I could hear the speakers, and the cheers. I couldn't hear what they said - but I picked up the atmosphere from the tone of voice, the way the cheers sounded. Harsh. Violent. Police choppers in the air, a lot of police personnel on the ground, it was very unnerving. Meanwhile, it also was a normal spring saturday: lots of tourists around, and lots of locals doing the big weekend shopping.

As an aside: if this country would turn into a police state, that's how it would look, I thought then. People would just get on with their lives, or probably try to get on with their lives with a vengeance, pretending really hard nothing's going on, making up for unease with a spending spree. But I digress.

So I did my weekend shopping at the biological market nearby, dropped the groceries home and went out again. I felt very uneasy about the atmosphere, but I hadn't actually seen anything. I had only heard a rumble in the background. So I had to find out what it was really like.

Coming from Central Station, towards the Dam Square - if you've ever visited Amsterdam as a tourist you'll remember this: it's the main artery from the station into town, and a real tourist trap, ugly as hell - no trams, no traffic, but the usual flood of visitors was there as if nothing was going on. A little while on though, the demonstration was coming straight in my direction. A full line of police was ahead, directing everyone to the side. I was lucky that I was just near an alley that I could jump in. I saw it pass from there.

There were two types of demonstrators.

There were the usual suspects from the alternative cirles. They have a kind of alternative dress code (workerish, baggy, you know the kind); they were a mix of various ethic groups, I estimate about half of them white and a about quarter women; their signs were 'pro-peace', ie. against terrorism from both sides; but most of all, they looked uneasy, down. They were silent, or quietly talking amongst themselves.

I would have felt like that if I had walked there, too, because the other type of demonstrator were from the extremist circles. They were dressed more normally, that is, they looked like your average early twentysomething nowadays; they were predominantly maroccan young men; they held signs against Israel and the US (a couple using the germanic rune-S for the S in Sharon and USA); and they were shouting.

"Hamas, Hamas, all jews on the gas".


I was afraid this would happen. But it still literally made me sick to see it.

There were over 300 people from the organising committee, very recognizable in bright yellow T-shirts, who did their best to keep the situation from escalating. As I watched the demo pass, I saw that they were doing their utmost to calm down things. There was an outside terrace on the street - within a minute, it had all been brought in the restaurant it belonged to, out of nowhere at least fifteen people appeared to help the staff. Very alert. On the radio later, I had also heard that they prevented pamphlets with swastikas being thrown around.

I am really upset at this. Antisemitism invoking WWII touches a raw nerve.

Those fscking kids - there was one group at the front, maybe a hundred; and there was one group at about halfway (I estimate the length of the demo at about a kilometer - whatever else, at least there was a good turnout), about the same size. So say twohundred kids spoiling it for at least 5.800 others. Not to mention what this did to the impact of the protest.


I can't write more now, but there's more coming. I'm churning over all this in the back of my head. Gonna watch the news now.

more maps! | main | really upset 2





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